Giving Christmas Meaning, Pt. 1
"Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn't come from a store." - Dr. Seuss
Christmas Day is coming at FULL-SPEED like a toy train winding through one of those intricately detailed miniature villages that people spend hundreds on to show-off for a month out of the year, but everyone in The United States knows that “Christmas” is no longer just celebrated on December 25th.
Christmas is an occasion, a complete season, and- dare I say it -practically a lifestyle, for multiple weeks. For some, the wreaths and the ornaments can stay up until as long as the end of El Día de los Reyes Magos.
In all honesty though, Christmas in this country isn’t even reserved anymore as a holiday solely for Jesus believin’ folk to enjoy.
We mainly have ‘Murican advertisers to thank for that “secularization", and for the most part, it’s been a good thing. I'm a Catholic-raised Quaker, and I love sharing Christmas! I want all of my Jewish friends to try my mom’s coquito, I want all of my atheist friends to see the groundbreaking claymation in The Nightmare Before Christmas, and I want every single soul in the universe to belt the entirety of Mariah Carey’s 1994 album, Merry Christmas. I even wish that Christian conservatives would stop getting enraged over “inclusive wintery holiday” cups, and would just drink their damn Starbucks Toasted White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino® in silence and with glee.
But, there’s a downside to all of the consumerism that Christmas invites.
Long gone are the days of A Miracle on 34th Street purity, the mornings of huddling around star-shaped cookies in matching jammies with loved ones… IN is the morning of Black Friday shopping, the true official ringing-in of Christmas as it has come to mean: consumerist heaven. People even leave their Thanksgiving festivities early to head to the mall to score the latest Fenty Beauty eye palette or GoPro Quadcopter, and they’re calling it Black Friday Eve. Yikes!
Even Pope Francis has criticized our, uh, uniquely patriotic take on the Advent season. During a Christmas Eve mass in 2015, the pope admonished our society for being “often intoxicated by consumerism, pleasure, wealth, and extravagance”. He went on to say that Jesus “calls us to act soberly, in other ways, in a way that is simple, balanced, consistent, capable of seeing and doing what is essential.”
And, even if you don’t ascribe to a Christian denomination, Pope Francis is right to put us all in check during the holidays. Christmas isn’t about opulence or one-upping your co-workers for the title of “Best Secret Santa”, it’s about giving love and giving time to those who need it most.
For this reason, I have spent the past 48 hours curating a list of Local and Greater Philadelphia charities and nonprofits that you can give to- volunteering counts as giving -throughout the end of this year.
These organizations were selected based on their transparency and accountability, as rated through metrics provided by websites like Charity Navigator and GuideStar.
There are over eight thousand do-gooders in Philly, but for all intents and purposes, about 245 have been selected. They are in the categories of Hispanic Focused, Arts and The Humanities, Health, Female Empowerment, Disability Services, Animals, City & Neighborhood Enrichment, LGBTQ, Seniors, Veterans, Youth, Education, Recreation, Spiritual, Environment, Civil Rights, Minority Specific, Financial, and Human Services. Many charities and nonprofits could be lumped under multiple categories, as they do work that crosses over and helps a variety of people with different needs, but they have been placed under the one that generally fits them best.
Every week until Christmas, I’ll be posting my picks, and my #feels about the holiday as it exists in 2017.
Consider this the ultimate guide to finding out where your wallet and your presence can bring the most impact to your community.